Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Burg Review: Boxer Charles Feathers opens knock-out exhibit at HMAC

It was only fitting that the old Police Athletic League (PAL) building was the backdrop for bantamweight Charles Feathers’ art show at the House of Music, Arts and Culture (HMAC) for 3rd in the Burg on Friday.

Feathers (pictured left) shook the very foundation with his show, which defied description. Everything from stylized ray guns to an apocalyptic wedding dress–including his signature “Bootleg” creations, presented in a no-holds-barred, knock ’em to the canvas style–made for a singular art exhibit.

Before venturing to the upstairs gallery, a laid back jazz duo put down an extra chill vibe on slide trombone and keyboards. The duo, Jim McFalls and Steve Rudolph, respectively, set the tone for a Mardi Gras ambiance in the downstairs bar and restaurant. As a visual backdrop behind them, hand-painted boxing gloves in a nod to the old PAL were on display.

A decade ago, the PAL building was reincarnated as HMAC and, preceding that, it housed the Jewish Community Center. Just off the elevator upstairs, an oversized, multi-colored yarn llama, replete with a cobalt blue saddle and gold suede harness, set off alarms for the riot of color alone. The police, one felt, could have been called in to save “the jumper,” an outsized plaster zebra (10 feet tall) as it perched precariously atop a questionable ledge while hanging onto a wedding veil in one hoof. Behind it was the aforementioned wedding dress with “burnout” patterns from a futuristic nuptial scene.

Otherworldly creations from Feathers included a metal-winged motorcycle jacket fit for a biker angel emblazoned with the “Bootleg” stamp. In a different vein, suspended from the ceiling, was a twisted metal sculpture hoop festooned with peacock feathers. In promoting the “feather fantasy,” Feathers made metal viewing glasses (sans lenses) adorned with peacock plumes outrageously placed across the frames or spinning out of control, extending the temples well beyond the wearer’s head. All the better to view “Planet Charlie” up close.

Artist and HMAC co-owner Gary Bartlett added three installations on the upstairs stage that complemented the avant garde work of Mr. Feathers. One installation spanned across either end of the stage, comprised of air duct vent tubes lit inside with multi-colored bulbs, giving the effect of an underground happening entitled, “American Dream/American Nightmare,” depending on the viewer’s point of view. Bartlett added two separate mannequin forms—one featured pieces from a shredded red Japanese lantern and gauzy material, and the companion piece was a torso adorned with scrabble letters.

What Feathers references in his “Bootleg Creations” is the imprimatur shark, which, in large part, is a tribute to the long-time collaboration with his dearly departed friend and co-creator, Dan Kalbach. Feathers carries on his legacy through the many iterations of “Bootleg,” an artistic genre in its own right.

What makes the body of work represented in Feathers’ oeuvre is the skill presented in diverse media—a potter, a sculptor, a photographer and, most of all, a visionary from another realm. His art is best seen and appreciated up close with clear eyes and an open mind. Whimsy is a large part of Feathers’ lexicon but so is romance and fantasy. All of this together makes Feathers a knockout artist. The evening was a TKO.

Be sure to view Feathers and Bartlett’s works at HMAC through April 17, before it leaves its orbit headed to another solar system.

The House of Music, Arts and Culture is located at 1110 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit

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